Sexual assault takes place when someone performs a sexual act on your body without your consent, or at least, that's how I interpret the definition. To be honest, I think that should be everyone's definition. And yes, this definition obviously includes rape — when one person has intercourse with someone else without their explicit consent. But more and more government officials are starting to agree that the umbrella of rape should also include "stealthing," otherwise known as the act of someone removing a condom during sex without the consent of the other person. In fact, U.S. Representatives Ro Khanna and Carolyn Maloney want stealthing to be classified as rape, and they are doing everything in their power to make sure Congress takes action against this form of sexual assault.
I had never even heard of the terrible act of stealthing until this past April, when a paper written by Alexandra Brodsky gained some traction. In the paper, Brodsky deeply explores the phenomenon. In addition to reading Reddit threads filled with people digitally recounting their terrible experiences, she also reached out to victims and interviewed them personally. One of those victims painted a picture of what exactly being stealthed feels like:
The harm mostly had to do with trust. He saw the risk as zero for himself and took no interest in what it might be for me and from a friend and sexual partner. That hurt.
"That hurt" doesn't even do justice to the amount of disrespect that comes along with stealthing. It's disgusting, it's a complete violation and, finally, Democratic Representatives, Ro Khanna, from California, and Carolyn Maloney, from New York, are doing something about it.
Buzzfeed News reports the two started off on their campaign by sending out a letter to the House Judiciary Committee asking that they take action against the very real issue.
“Consent is not up for discussion, it is a requirement for the entirety of any sexual interaction. Stealthing violates an agreement between partners and is a dangerous form of sexual assault,” Khanna told BuzzFeed News. “The implications of the practice of nonconsensual condom removal are far-reaching with respect to the ongoing national conversation on the definition of consensual sex.”
Maloney echoed his sentiments in her own statement to BuzzFeed News:
I am horrified that we even need to be having this conversation, that a sexual partner would violate their partner’s trust and consent like this. Stealthing is sexual assault. We need a hearing so that Congress can hear from the experts about how to best address this issue as we continue to amend our country’s and universities’ responses to sexual assault and rape.
This isn't the first time government officials have made the effort to take the despicable act of stealthing and formally classify it as a form of sexual assault. Government officials in both California and Wisconsin have made the effort to do so with new legislation, but both have yet to find success in actually getting their proposed bills passed.
Stealthing is so clearly a terrible violation that could not only result in unwanted pregnancy but also potential disease for the victims. And in some cases, stealthers can actually face legal ramifications for the act. Julie Rendelman, a criminal defense attorney, told Elite Daily,
If an individual were to 'stealth' another person knowing that he had some type of infectious venereal disease, he could be charged with a crime. Under New York Public Health Law, Section 2307, a person who, knowing himself or herself to be infected with an infectious venereal disease, has sexual intercourse with another, is guilty of a misdemeanor. In addition, it is possible that such an act could rise to the level of Reckless Endangerment, a more serious criminal charge.
However, regardless of if a victim of stealthing ever actually contracts an infectious disease, the act absolutely should still be legally defined as a form of rape. Hopefully, Khanna and Maloney will be successful in their attempts at classifying it as such.
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